Chinese Special Envoy for Eurasian Affairs Li Hui will participate in the Saudi Arabia-initiated Jeddah talks on the peaceful settlement in Ukraine, China’s foreign ministry said on Friday.
“China is willing to work with the international community to continue to play a constructive role in promoting a political solution to the crisis in Ukraine,” Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson at the Chinese ministry, said in a statement.
Ukraine and Western diplomats hope the meeting this weekend in the port city of Jeddah will be an opportunity for officials to agree on key principles to inform any peace agreement that would end Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine.
About 40 countries are set to be represented at the session, but the biggest diplomatic prize would be an endorsement from China, which has kept close economic and diplomatic ties with Russia — and so far has rejected international calls to condemn the invasion.
China was invited to a previous round of talks in Copenhagen in late June but did not attend.
Ukraine and its allies are optimistic the Jeddah summit will help ramp up global support for a peace plan in Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy expressed hope the discussions in Jeddah would lay the groundwork for an upcoming “peace summit” with leaders from around the world this fall. The aim is to endorse the principles based on Zelenskyy’s 10-point formula for a peace settlement.
The Jeddah session is expected to begin on Friday, and the main discussions will take place on Saturday and Sunday.
Russia says it will not be involved in this weekend’s talks or the summit planned for the fall.
Beyond its Western backers, Ukraine hopes to garner diplomatic support from more Global South countries, including Brazil, India, South Africa and Turkey.
Part of Ukraine’s strategy to gain support from Global South countries will reportedly be to emphasize how food prices have risen after Russia quit the U.N. brokered Black Sea grain deal last month and began attacking Ukrainian port facilities.
That facet of the conflict has been a top priority for U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who on Thursday pressed all countries at the United Nations to tell Moscow to stop using the Black Sea as blackmail after Russia killed the Black Sea Grain Initiative.
A Russian warship was seriously damaged in an overnight Ukrainian naval drone attack on Russia’s Black Sea navy base at Novorossiysk, in the first Ukrainian naval show of power so far from its base.
A Ukrainian intelligence source said the Olenegorsky Gornyak, a Russian navy landing ship with about 100 Russian servicemen on board, had been hit by a sea drone carrying 450 kilograms of TNT.
“As a result of the attack, the Olenegorsky Gornyak received a serious breach and currently cannot conduct its combat missions,” a source told Reuters, adding that the operation had been carried out by Ukraine’s Security Service and the navy. “All the Russian statements about a ‘repelled attack’ are fake,” the source said.
Video footage verified by Reuters showed the Olenegorsky Gornyak being towed to shore by a tug, listing heavily to its port side.
Earlier, Russia’s Defense Ministry said the two Ukrainian sea drones had been repelled in the waters outside the base and that the drones had been destroyed. It made no mention of any damage in its short statement.
The port, which handles 2% of the world’s oil supply and exports grain, temporarily interrupted maritime traffic before resuming normal operations, according to the Caspian Pipeline Consortium which operates an oil terminal there.
It is the first time a Russian commercial port has been targeted in the war between Russia and Ukraine.
In an interview Friday with VOA, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield expressed strong discontent with the announcement by a Russia court Friday of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny’s additional 19-year prison term on extremism charges.
“Sad but not surprised,” the U.S. ambassador said. “It is clear that the Russian government, that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, that this authoritarian government will use any means to restrict the voices of the opposition, restrict the voices of criticism. Navalny represents that. He is being held in an unacceptable way. He should not have been in this court system, and we condemn the actions of the Russian government as it relates to him,” she said.
VOA U.N Correspondent Margaret Besheer contributed to this story.